By Esther North – Gibsons, B.C.
From my upstairs bedroom window I saw Auntie Mae’s car turn onto the drive towards our farmhouse. It was the eve of my 10th birthday.
Certain she had come bearing gifts, I raced down the stairs past my parents and opened the kitchen door. There stood Auntie Mae.
“Oh, dear,” she said as she tugged on a length of twine, “I’ve got this stuck under the step. Will you hop down and get it out for me?”
Down I got and discovered to my amazement that the twine led to a bright red ribbon bow collaring an adorable puppy.
Auntie Mae’s entrepreneurial enterprise of the day was purebred puppies and my birthday gift was a 10-week-old golden English Cocker Spaniel.
Even if I had known, I wouldn’t have cared that he was the runt of the litter. I loved him the moment he licked my face and I named him Laddie.
We had a working farm dog but Laddie was the house dog. Different rules applied. “The dog may sleep in your room but not on your bed.”
The first night, at the first whimper Laddie and I broke that rule. My parents didn’t even try to enforce the impossible.
Laddie and I were inseparable.
When I came home from school, he was waiting at the gate, leaping up and enthusiastically wagging his docked tail to greet me. When I threw myself on the bed to cry over something or nothing, he lay down beside me and nuzzled comfort. When I scratched my knees or cut a finger, he vigorously applied his antiseptic tongue healing the wound and my feelings in a lick.
Best of all, according to my parents’ story and frequently repeated at my request, was when I stayed away overnight. Laddie kept them awake all night going up and down the stairs, from front door to kitchen door, from my (our) room to their room insisting they get up and find me.
Worst of all was that the English Cocker Spaniel has a hunting gene! With nothing to do while I was away on school days, Laddie discovered the joy of hunting chickens. More than one chicken went into the pot.
Dad’s repeated efforts to retrain him failed but his threats to get rid of “that blasted dog” came to nothing.
Dad was the greater animal lover and the joyful, faithful, beautiful Laddie lived for 14 years through my leaving home for boarding school and college, transferring his bond to dad.
The unconditional love of a dog is as therapeutic for seniors (me now) as it was when I was an only child living on a farm.
Now, waking up with a two-year-old Alaskan Klee Kai on my bed, keeps me smiling and walking with her energetic little self keeps me in shape!